The hot trend in new vehicles these days is the replacement of traditional gauges in the instrument binnacle with an entirely digital LCD panel. Audi was one of the first to do this with their ‘virtual cockpit’ system, and just about every other manufacturer has or is following suit. Modern Mercedes Benz cars don’t even try to hide the fact it’s digital: the dash is just one wide flatscreen panel, as if someone simply glued a tablet on.
I guess we have the smartphone to thank for this development, and tangentially, Tesla. People prefer lots information available at a glance, so if you want Google Maps navigation overlaid on the typical engine RPM and speed dials, digital is the only way to achieve this. It’s likely cheaper to manufacture, too: one giant LCD panel with software development, versus engineering analog dials gauges in fancy shapes and sizes.
When the Audi virtual cockpit first debut, I was quite impressed: to have the navigation maps directly in front of your vision is more natural and useful than having to look away towards the right (or left for my UK brethren) at the infotainment screen. It’s probably safer, too. Audi’s system also allows configuration for the tachometer be in the center, which is the proper position in my opinion, especially in a car with any modicum of sporting intentions.
As the technology have proliferated throughout automotive spectrum, I’m not so sure anymore about having a completely digital instrument panel. Partly because I love the intricacies and mechanicalness of analog dials (like a fine mechanical watch), and partly due to the concerns about repair cost. We all know how expensive to fix our broken smartphones, so it’s not a stretch to think that if and when the electronics fail on those digital instrument panels, the repair bill will be quite substantial.
But what am I saying? Our generation love leasing and buying things on payment; who’s going to keep a car long enough for the LCD dash to fail anyways.